It may be the timely hardship I’m facing, but there’s a passage captured in the gospel accounts that continues to flood my thoughts.
Calling the crowd along with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and the gospel will save it. 36 For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life? 37 What can anyone give in exchange for his life? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38
“Take up his cross” is particularly enticing as we remember that Jesus died on a literal cross. To follow Jesus, we must take up our cross and follow Him. That’s a bold and terrifying claim when you think about it, considering too, that eleven of the twelve disciples died for their belief that Jesus is the Messiah. It radically puts things into perspective. I think about my brothers and sisters in Christ that live in places today where they could be killed for simply owning a Bible. Comparatively, we have it easy, friend.
As I think about how the context of that passage translates to today, I see that following God implies guaranteed hardship. We are to face difficulties due to a world infested with sin. It’s hard to chase after God’s plan instead of chasing the desires of our flesh. We will struggle, but do not be fearful, Christian. Jesus overcame the world and there will be a day with no more tears and no more pain because of it. Whatever happens in this life, the good news of the gospel is the best is always yet to come for the one who places their trust in Jesus. In the meantime, to follow God, we are told to take up our cross. Our commitment to following Jesus and to seek His will above everything else implies we’re going to be thrown into some sticky situations. And what may even be scarier, is we do not know what that looks like for each one of us. I do not know what may come my way in the next day, year, or decade. Hesitation is appropriate when the Christian realizes the cost of following Jesus. And before you click out of this blog post, my friend who does not know Jesus, I ask that you give me a chance to explain.
This passage was particularly convicting as I thought about where God will call my husband and me both individually and together as a family. Since the beginning, even before we began dating, we each continuously prayed for God’s will. My prayer has always been, “God, I want Your Will above everything else.” Yet as I say these things, I often do not associate that prayer with the weight of Jesus’ command. I do not think about how difficult my life may end up being because I’m committed to following Jesus until I breathe my last breath.
When I think more specifically about this current season, I wonder how committed I truly am to Jesus. Do I follow Jesus with the understanding that it calls for inevitable hardship? Am I ready to get uncomfortable for the sake of spreading and living out the gospel? Honestly, I don’t know.
I enjoy learning. Though my brain stops thinking about exoskeletons and all work-related projects the moment I leave the office, the curiosity about how things work still lingers. Whether it’s better trying to understand someone’s view when it comes to ethics, wanting to learn a new skill because a job or future job may require it, or researching the pile of unanswered questions I have, I am always hoping to learn more. That’s why you can find me learning a new skill every few months, and right now I am studying the supplement industry and the science of amino acids as I perfect my homemade pre-workout drink.
Now I think most of this is because my brain is wired in this way as I’ve never been the kind of person to spend my Saturdays sleeping in until noon and watching movies until my eyes hurt. For me, there’s a lot of joy in doing things I’ve never done or improving a skill I already have. But with all that being said, I think a smidge of why I’m doing this comes from this fear of not being marketable. I want to know how to do everything so I do not have to put all my eggs in one basket. I’d rather work “part-time” at several places than devote all my time to a single calling because what if it doesn’t work. My backup plans have backup plans.
I’ve mentioned this before, but as of right now, I do not see engineering as my lifelong calling. Simply put, my mission is to spread the gospel and show others who this Jesus claimed to be. I love this blog and my podcast, but I think we can reach more people. I particularly find myself drawn to college kids as these young individuals begin to navigate adulthood. I would love to show them who this Jesus is. When I think about what that looks like, I see myself getting coffee with a student as we walk through the gospel of John. I see myself staying up unreasonably late at times to offer hot cocoa to the fraternity and sorority houses as I share the love that Jesus preached. I see myself making disciples who then make more disciples. I know God can do big things with that and both my husband and I can envision ourselves pursuing God’s calling in this way.
As I think about what that ministry could look like if God continues to pull us in that direction, I think about what that means for everything else I do or want to do. I would likely need to give some things up. I probably could not be an engineer full-time if this ministry calls for long hours. I probably could not start a supplement business if I truly want to pour into this ministry. I probably would not pursue personal training. I would not have enough time to do everything and maybe that is completely okay. I think that’s what trusting God looks like.
There’s reasonable hesitation as I think about what that ministry could look like and what that would mean for my hobbies or future career, but I think that’s what following Jesus may look like. If following Him means we need to take up our cross, then I think it’s expected that we would feel a little reluctant to follow God wherever He calls us. I think I would honestly be a little skeptical if God’s calling led to me living comfortably or making decisions that involved minimal doubt. It’s a lot easier to trust God when things go as you want them to go. It’s much harder when it involves putting your trust in Him.
I think following Jesus calls for at least a little bit of hesitation. I find myself imagining God asking, “Are you ready, Kira? Are you ready to follow me with all your heart, soul, and mind?” Transparently, I’d say, “Well, no. I don’t feel all that prepared, but I want to follow You. It’s worth it. It’s entirely worth it no matter the costs.” Jesus, I want to follow you, so I will take up my cross.
My non-Christian friend, I did not forget about you. I think it’s appropriate to read that passage and this blog post and question the ways of the Christian. Why would someone follow Jesus if that is what it takes? Why would someone believe in Christianity when the Bible says these sorts of things? Why would I follow Jesus if following Him still means there will be trials and tribulations? I could ask you the same question. Why would someone follow Jesus if that’s what it takes? Who is this Jesus and why in the world was he so influential? Jesus was either a liar, lunatic or Lord. Who do you say He is?
I follow Jesus because I find Christianity to be the accurate representation of reality. As I study philosophy, history, mathematics, and archeology, Christianity is the most reasonable faith among religions, including atheism. We will face trials regardless, but the Christian worldview offers hope where naturalism falls short. The Christian worldview offers certainty because we know the Savior of the world by name: Jesus. It’s because of Jesus that one day there will be a new heaven and new earth. For the one who places their trust in Jesus, they will experience this paradise with God’s everlasting glory. No matter what happens in this life, we know that the best is always yet to come. Would you try out my worldview and see who this Jesus is?